Minnesota Title V MCH Needs Assessment Fact Sheets

Children and Adolescents

Child Abuse and Neglect

August 2004

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Size of the Problem

Statewide, the number and rate of substantiated instances of child abuse and neglect has varied little throughout the decade. In 2002, 10,000 children (or 7.6 per 1,000) were found to have been abused or neglected, and an additional 5,329 children were involved in alternative response programs (families who are provided services but a determination of abuse or neglect is not made) [1].

For cases receiving a response in 2002, neglect accounted for the majority of allegations (around 60 percent). Physical abuse accounted for about 37 percent, sexual abuse for 14 percent, and mental injury for less than one percent. Of the four maltreatment types, neglect had the highest determination rate at 52 percent, followed by sexual abuse (42 percent), physical abuse (36 percent), and mental injury (35 percent) [1].

Percent of Students Who Report Physical and Sexual Abuse Within the Family, Minnesota 2001
  Males Females
Grade Physical Abuse Sexual Abuse Physical Abuse Sexual Abuse
6th Grade
9th Grade
12th Grade
Source: Minnesota Student Survey 2001


Child maltreatment is among the most prevalent and far-reaching forms of violence in Minnesota. It includes physical, sexual, and emotional maltreatment and physical and emotional neglect. It contributes to fatal and nonfatal injuries, disabilities, and mental health disorders and is associated with a range of social and intergenerational issues, including substance abuse and youth violence.

All children should be raised in safe, nurturing and loving families. If untreated, the physical and emotional scars of abuse and neglect can last a lifetime. It can prevent children from learning in school and make young people more vulnerable to violence and drug abuse [2].

The impact of child maltreatment on society as a whole includes national and state legislation; physical and mental health care; rehabilitative services; foster care; residential treatment; special education services; social services; law enforcement; adjudication and incarceration of juvenile and adult criminals; family stress and the loss of earnings or poverty resulting from disability or other incapacity to secure or maintain employment (or both) and of the capacity to parent [3].

Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The current national data indicate that compared to other children, children with disabilities are:

  • 1.6 times more likely to be physically abused;
  • 2.2 times more likely to be sexually abused;
  • 1.8 times more likely to be neglected;
  • Much more likely to be maltreated by a family member or someone they know; and
  • More likely to be abused if they have multiple disabilities versus one disability [3].

Racial/Ethnic Disparities

  • In 2002, African American/Black and American Indian children were approximately seven times more likely to be determined victims of maltreatment than were White children [1].
  • In 2002, families who neglected children were more likely to experience multiple family issues including substance abuse [1].
  • In 2002, just under 10 percent of all determined victims had at least one subsequent determined report of maltreatment within one year. American Indian children had the highest recurrence rate, 11.4 percent, followed closely by African American/Black children and children of two or more races [1].


Children and families lead complicated lives. There is no one answer that works for everyone. Public and private agencies in Minnesota have supported some promising strategies that have been recognized by Prevent Child Abuse America as effective for some communities in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Listed below are some of the promising strategies operating in Minnesota.

Family Support: An approach to strengthening and empowering families and communities to foster the optimal development of all family members. Programs are flexible, individualized, and involve parents in all steps of problem solving. The Circle of Parents Program in Minnesota is funded and supported by Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (www.pcamn.org Attn: Non-MDH Link). There is a network of parent and children's support groups that meet weekly across the state. Parent support groups help parents to improve their parenting skills and strengthen family relationships.

Early Intervention: Whether it be screening and intervention for disabilities, caregiver-child interactions, injuries, physical and behavioral developmental milestones, or mental health problems, studies have documented that effective preventive outcomes are maximized when begun early. Opportunities and places for early intervention include assessments done prenatally and at the time of birth; postnatal, infant, toddler, and early childhood health check-ups and immunizations; preschool screening; home visiting; intakes for services; day care; and early childhood family education [4].

Primary Prevention Programs: Programs such as Head Start and other early childhood programs reduce family stress, help families access resources, and create social support [2].

Home Visitation: Studies have documented the effectiveness of prevention initiatives, such as home visits to new families to reduce child abuse. The Wilder evaluation of the Minnesota Home Visiting Program to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect (PCAN) found it had an impact on reducing risks of child maltreatment and strengthening families with risk factors for maltreatment. David Olds and associates conducted research over the past 20 years in three different locations. The effectiveness of nurse home visits included a 79 percent drop in child abuse and neglect, among other measurable outcomes [5].

Prevention Education and Outreach to Communities: Multiple studies have shown that public education can increase knowledge of a topic or issue; increase the awareness and importance of taking action, and of how to do so appropriately; and influence community attitudes about the issue or problem [4].

Crisis Nursery Programs: These programs provide a short-term, safe and supportive environment for children as well as a non-threatening, non-punitive resource for parents and caregivers. The crisis nursery program in Minnesota offers emergency and short-term child care for children of parents who are facing a crisis in addition to an array of other family support services. There are 20 crisis nurseries operating in Minnesota, providing services to families in 28 counties. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (www.dhs.state.mn.us Attn: Non-MDH Link) provides grants for crisis nursery programs to operate.

Parent Education: The focus of parent education is on improving family strengths and functioning. Skill-building can help parents guide their children and can assist parents in sorting, choosing, and using parenting information.


Child abuse and neglect is a Minnesota public health priority:

  • Minnesota 2004 Public Health Improvement Goal: Reduce by 15 percent child maltreatment cases in Minnesota.

Child abuse and neglect has also been identified as a federal priority:

  • Current MCH Block Grant state performance measure: Incidence of substantiated child maltreatment by persons responsible for a child’s care.
  • Healthy People 2010 Indicator 15.33: Reduce maltreatment and maltreatment fatalities of children.

Early intervention and screening services have been implemented in Minnesota for years, due to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Minnesota’s birth-to-five and child maltreatment laws [4].

Home Visiting programs offer home visiting services to families with identified risk factors for child abuse and neglect.

Minnesota’s Alternative Response Program, developed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services child protection system, enables county social workers to examine child safety and maltreatment risks and also to identify family strengths and needs. This holistic approach allows them to better support families and refer them to needed community resources [6].

Minnesota's Early Childhood Family Education Program (ECFE) is funded and supported by the Minnesota Department of Education (http://education.state.mn.us Attn: Non-MDH Link). ECFE is offered in all of the 341 school districts in Minnesota and four tribal schools. The core components of the program are parent education, early childhood education, and parent-child together learning activities.

Training and education for mandated reporters is available through the Minnesota Department of Human Services and local county child protection services throughout Minnesota; however, this audience could be expanded to include all community members [3].

The Minnesota State Child Mortality Review Panel meets monthly at the Minnesota Department of Human Services to review deaths or near fatalities of infants/children resulting from maltreatment or suspected maltreatment. The panel operates under the authority of Minnesota Statute 256.01, Subd. 12.

Community Awareness
Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (PCAMN) produces and distributes Minnesota's Child Abuse Prevention Month Campaign materials each April and distributes thousands of pieces of additional prevention education and outreach materials throughout the year. In addition, PCAMN organizes and sponsors an annual statewide child abuse prevention conference.

The Children's Trust Fund at the Minnesota Department of Human Services supports and funds community based prevention grants. The grants are provided through a special fund dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The fund is derived from a surcharge on Minnesota birth certificates. The Minnesota's Children's Trust Fund was established in 1986 to prevent child abuse and maltreatment by partnering with and funding community-based services that provide resources, education, and information on child abuse prevention statewide.

The Children's Trust Fund activities are also funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Community-Based Family Resource Support Program (CBFRS) under Title 11 of the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA).


1. Minnesota Department of Human Services. (2004). Minnesota’s child welfare report for 2002. #04-68-07. Online resource: http://www.dhs.state.mn.us Attn: Non-MDH Link
2. Minnesota Children’s Defense Fund. Minnesota kids count 2004 data book. Online resource: www.cdf-mn.org Attn: Non-MDH Link
3. Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota Children with Special Health Needs Fact Sheet.
4. Minnesota Department of Health. Strategies for public health, volume 2: A compendium of ideas, experience, and research from Minnesota's public health professionals. Online resource: www.health.state.mn.us/strategies/
5. Kitzman H., Olds D. (2000). Enduring effects of nurse home visitation on maternal lifecourse: A 3-year follow-up of a randomized trial. JAMA, 283(15):1983-1989.
6. Minnesota Department of Human Services. Online resource: www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/groups/children/documents/pub/dhs_id_001627.hcsp Attn: Non-MDH Link